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Is Caps Lock Dead? 1206

An anonymous reader asks "Recently I have noticed that I haven't used caps lock other for any purpose other than hitting it by accident. Once upon a time, COBOL was written in all caps, and other languages like BASIC and Fortran were not case sensitive. Capitals were the way to go for writing code. Does the caps lock key serve any purpose any more, and if not, should it be removed, moved, or replaced?"
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Is Caps Lock Dead?

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  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linuxpoweredtrekkie ( 659492 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:28PM (#9346857)
    Caps Lock is EVIL!

    I remapped my capslock into an extra control key months ago. I never type more than a couple of words in capitals, and can easily hold down the shift key.

    Capslock is just a problem when you accidentally hit it when reading something you are keying in.
  • by Dark Bard ( 627623 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:29PM (#9346872)
    Writers and layout people use cap lock all the time. Most will use it from time to time in standard word processing. Computers aren't just for programers. Some of us use the software they write.
  • by TheOtherAgentM ( 700696 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:29PM (#9346874)
    I use Caps Lock to check if Windows has completely frozen up. If the light on my keyboard doesn't come on, it's time to do a hard reset.
  • by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:30PM (#9346888)
    Of course caps lock is necessary. It's necessary for whenever you want to type in all-caps without holding shift the whole time. I can think of dozens of examples of this. Hell, where I work, the blank fields on our contracts must be typed in all caps. I wrote a screenplay once, and you need caps all over the place. When I'm coding, I write some macro names in all-caps.

    No, the caps lock shouldn't be removed or replaced. It's handy to have a key that allows you to toggle lower to upper caps so you don't have to hold shift.

    Pointless Ask Slashdot question!
  • Move the key (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 88NoSoup4U88 ( 721233 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:31PM (#9346902)
    Just move the caps-lock key to the scroll lock button ;). Anyone ever uses -that- button anymore nowadays ?
  • Yes, it is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ice_Balrog ( 612682 ) <ice_balrog.netzero@net> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:31PM (#9346907)
    Yes, Caps Lock is useless and annoying. Infact, I find it so annoying when I accidentally hit my Caps Lock that I added this to my xorg.conf (XF86Config for those still using XFree86):
    Option "XkbOptions" "ctrl:nocaps"
    There are quite a few other things you can do with your Caps Lock key in Xorg/XF86, just Google for them.
  • by mikael ( 484 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:34PM (#9346941)
    I am still amazed that after 20 years of the desktop PC, we still have to press the key labelled [F1] to get any type of GUI help, rather than having a key labelled [HELP], although Microsoft did find a way of squeezing in a key with the Windows logo.
  • by randyest ( 589159 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:36PM (#9346967) Homepage
    hold down shift?
  • by ultrabot ( 200914 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:37PM (#9346980)
    More useful than switching with escape is switching caps lock with Control.

    You should have:

    Option "XkbOptions" "ctrl:swapcaps"

    In the InputDevice section for your keyboard (in XF86Config, of course).

    Voila'! Ctrl assumes its rightful place on the keyboard. Ergonomic implications are massive.

    Equivalent hack is available for NT too. It's done via registry, but I can't be bothered to google for it right now.

  • by bratgrrl ( 197603 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:42PM (#9347033)
    This is one sad excuse of a story. Aren't there any leftover SCO blurbs to fill in?
  • by AsimovBesterClarke ( 701529 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:44PM (#9347054)
    20 years, eh? Seems like 20 years ago, most every dumb terminal I used had a 'Help' key. And it has probably been nearly 5 years since sitting at a Sun console, but I seem to recall a help key there, too.

    Now, in the over 20 years, I have never expected pressing this key would actually provide anything resembling help, but the key has been around.

    Oh, and this gets an "Insightful"??? and scored 4???
  • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:56PM (#9347181) Homepage
    What if he types with only one finger?
  • by localroger ( 258128 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @07:57PM (#9347183) Homepage
    My KVM switch uses Scroll Lock (hit twice within 1/2 second) to enable the other keys for switching machines. If we don't have some useless keys on the keyboard, devices like my KVM switch would have to hijack functions I actually use once in awhile, which would be annoying.
  • by tisme ( 414989 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:03PM (#9347237)
    If you are teaching young children how to type on computers, you would almost certainly still find a use for caps lock.

    While some of them can handle Shift + letter, many of them rely on Caps Lock to get a capital letter through, especially when they are just getting started.
  • Medical claims (Score:2, Insightful)

    by arashiakari ( 633150 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:08PM (#9347270) Homepage
    Medicare rules require all digital claim information to be submitted in ALL CAPS for processing. Lowercase alpha characters get claim reimbursement requests rejected.

    Ask the Japanese if they should get rid of hiragana since they have katakana, or get rid of kanji since they can simply spell phonetically. Uppercase characters are still important to data processing and the proper use of the English language.
  • by dragonman97 ( 185927 ) * on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:10PM (#9347287)
    I did the same thing after I got fed up with the key, and found a nice utility to remap it on my Windows machine at work - life's so much easier that way.
  • by TummyX ( 84871 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:17PM (#9347335)
    If your computer has frozen to the point where the keyboard lights won't respond then it's likely to be a hardware failure not windows.
  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:34PM (#9347424)
    And do you give your constants names so long that you really need to use your caps lock key instead of just using shift?

    Of course I do. Don't you?

    Either your code is full of single-letter names, or you don't do much programming. Holding down Shift while typing hurts my fingers if I do it too much. If I didn't have CAPS LOCK I'd be on workers' comp by now.
  • by el_gordo101 ( 643167 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:37PM (#9347436)
    I use Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End all day long. Combined with the Ctrl and Shift keys, they are very powerful for navigating aound your documents, editing code, etc. Once you master using these keys and their Ctrl/Shift combos, you will rarley use a mouse again.
  • by jesup ( 8690 ) * <randellslashdot AT jesup DOT org> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @08:41PM (#9347465) Homepage
    Ah. A vi user. If you're an Emacs user, having the capslock key mapped to control is the ONLY way to fly. As others have said, that's the One True Position for the control key. (Check Sun keyboards, for example.)

    My "CapsLock" keys have the legend worn off of them, and one even has a groove from where my pinkie's fingernail hits it.
  • by Gary Destruction ( 683101 ) * on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:11PM (#9347643) Journal
    Mice and keyboards are simple devices that would have nothing to gain by going to USB. The only possible advantage would on systems without IOAPIC's. You would gain extra IRQ's by using USB mice and keyboards.
  • by Soul-Burn666 ( 574119 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:16PM (#9347671) Journal
    Oh man!
    The horrors of clicking caps-lock by mistake in VI...

    suddenly hjkl do stuff like finding a man page for a command or removing a newline instead of moving around.........
  • by Cainam ( 10838 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:20PM (#9347702) Homepage
    Why not just use the Esc key as your "ESC" key?
  • by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:32PM (#9347781)
    It's necessary for whenever you want to type in all-caps without holding shift the whole time.

    That is a software issue not a hardware one. Caps lock have nothing to do with >>99.9% of computing, and 99.9% of the time it is invoked accidentally, and it has negative effects on the users computing experience. The password entry should never be in all caps, neither should commandline interfaces, most editors (emacs, vi, etc) dont make sense when cap locks is enabled, and for some reason, all caps is difficult to read, and it LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE IS YELLING AT YOU!!!

    I always disable it in windows, my mac, linux, etc. Its one of the 1st things I do when I get a new computer. Let the damn thing be emulated in software if its needed.
  • by WhatsAProGingrass ( 726851 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:37PM (#9347809) Homepage
    In the US Air Force, we use CAPS LOCK all the time. It sucks. It's a pain in the ass because they want so much stuff in capitals, like its better that way. I'm a fan of readability. And if everything is in caps anyways, then everything stands out, so why use it. Also, working for the government, you'll notice a lot of busted up keyboards with no caps light that works. So when putting in passwords can be a bitch sometimes.
  • by TrixX ( 187353 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:39PM (#9347818) Homepage Journal

    I usually use NumLock for that...

    Scroll lock is useful to stop the console scrolling (in linux VCs) when some program is spewing lots of data to stdout/err

    It can be dangerous. I remember once pressing it accidentally while burning a CD. cdrecord locked trying to write its progress to the console, the CDwriter buffer emptied, and I lost the CD.

  • Honestly.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Raven42rac ( 448205 ) * on Saturday June 05, 2004 @09:57PM (#9347905)
    This honestly does not bother me that much. If the placement of keys on the keyboard gets you hot and bothered, seek help.
  • by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @11:35PM (#9348222) Journal
    I've never understood the 'need' people have to capitalize SQL. It's not case sensitive. If one has a decent syntax highlighting editor, then the capital's don't help at all!
    It's a style thing. It's also the common style used almost everywhere.

    You say it doesn't help if you have a syntax highlighting editor; you can't count on having a syntax highlighted editor all the time.

    While I think there are benefits to it, many interns that I've worked with seem paralyzed if they don't have syntax highlighting. A few are paralized if they don't have auto-complete. If the code REQUIRES syntax highlighting to be understandable, clearly you need to adopt a different style.

    If you don't have SQL syntax highlighting, the more complex the SQL statement is the more it benefits from the all-cap keywords. That in itself is enough to justify (for me) it's use. Since I compose my SQL statements in my C++ interface code, I don't have SQL syntax highlighting; the C++ editor highlights them all as strings. Using caps really helps readability, especially when the SQL statements are complex and require several lines to compose.

  • Macro names (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aarondsouza ( 96916 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @12:06AM (#9348328)
    It's a fairly common convention to have macro names in C/C++ be all caps. This is where I seem to use the CapsLock key the most anyway.

  • Re:Yes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by noda132 ( 531521 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @12:11AM (#9348353) Homepage

    Pressing capslock puts the keyboard into upper case until the shift key is pressed. Then it should go off.

    While I think this is a clever idea, it would nullify the point above. People who use capslock to type in long constants would have to press it after each underscore. As any decent programmer will tell you, ACONSTANTNAME is much worse than A_CONSTANT_NAME.

    I personally touch-type and hold down the Shift key for long constants; I find it faster than synchronizing my Shift keypresses with my '_' keypresses.

  • Re:Happy Hacking (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 06, 2004 @12:18AM (#9348380)
    I have a Happy Hacking keyboard and I don't like it much. The keys feel mushy, like a cheapo $5 keyboard, and it's too minimalist for my taste. Also, the alt, fn and compose keys are way too small. My current keyboard is an IBM Model M -- yes, the one that sounds like a machine gun and weighs as much as one.

    I remapped the Caps Lock key to be a Left Control, and also put Escape left of the "1" key. The old Escape key closes the current window. Now I'm in business.
  • by Rui del-Negro ( 531098 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @12:25AM (#9348416) Homepage
    I think keyboards definitely need an update. More important than removing keys, though, is adding keys for some common tasks.

    There are several keys that I think should be standard on all keyboards, not just to avoid having to use combinations, but mainly to avoid having a different combination in each program (ex., some programs use Ctrl+Z for undo, others use Alt+Backspace, etc.). Here's my list:
    • Select - Hold down this key to select items or text. Shift+Select selects from the last selected element to the current one, Control+Select adds the current element to the selection. Alt+Select would invert the selection. It would be placed where Caps Lock currently is. Caps Lock would be moved to the space above the numeric pad, where the Caps Lock LED usually is (make the LED part of the key). The other two "lock" keys would also be moved here.

    • Cut, Copy and Paste - Self-explanatory. Above Insert / Home / End.

    • Undo and Redo - Also self-explanatory.. Above Cut, Copy and Paste

    • Back and Forward - Above the left and right arrow keys. Useful for browsers, media players and wizards, can also work as "turn" keys for games, leaving the side arrows for strafe.

    • Help - Where F1 currently is. All function keys would move right by 2 keys, leaving Help between Esc and F1, with a space on each side. Alternatively, put it next to Undo.

    • Sleep - In the "System" section, near an edge of the keyboard (ex., top right), along with Print Screen and Pause / Break. Combined with Shift, Control and Alternate, this key could also be used for Standby / Hibernate / Shutdown.

    Most of these keys could simply emulate the most common shotcuts (ex., Help = F1, Cut = Ctrl+X, etc.), so they would automatically be compatible with most existing programs.

    I doubt this will happen anytime soon, though, since Microsoft is pretty much the only company with the power to dictate a "standard", and the fact that the only new keys to appear in several years are the "winkeys" shows that their idea of a "useful" key is one that has their logo on it, even if it's only used about once a month (or, in my case, not even that).

    Also, one thing I'd like to see is a mouse where, instead of a scroll wheel (or two wheels), there was a mini-trackball, that could be used to scroll both vertically and horizontally. I'm surprised no-one has come up with this yet (at least I've never seen one).

  • by tommy ( 12973 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @12:39AM (#9348485) Homepage
    I find the following easier to read:
    select *
    from tblWhatever a
    join tblYaddaYadda b
    on a.ID = b.ID
    where b.foo = 1
    It's even better with syntax highlighting. But even without formatting, I prefer syntax highlighting over SYNTAX CAPPING ;-).
  • by mirko ( 198274 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @12:43AM (#9348502) Journal
    Or in Quake : I use it mapped to the "Always Run" function.
  • by servognome ( 738846 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @12:50AM (#9348535)
    In your example I would use shift key because there is alot of switching between upper and lower case.
    Because I so rarely use caps lock, it becomes a distraction to use. Its just so much more natural to hold shift and type "s-e-l-e-c-t" than pausing, looking down, and hitting caps lock. Yeah I know caps lock is right above shift, but I have trained myself to not accidently hit it, so I just can't naturally hit caps lock while typing .
    I only caps lock when I know at the beginning of a large chunk of text that I will be using all caps.
    I think this article does beg the question "When should we trade tradition for efficiency?"
  • by phaze3000 ( 204500 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @04:04AM (#9348975) Homepage
    Syntax highlighting is all very well when you're writing the code in the first place, but if you're trying to debug what's going wrong with an app (for example by tailing a log of SQL commands executed) then capitalisation makes things much, much easier to quickly read and understand.
  • by EvilMidnightBomber ( 778018 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @04:51AM (#9349090) Homepage
    The problem with making ANY remapping changes to your keyboard is that in a programming environment where you frequently have to hop on other people's comps to "drive", you instantly take on the role of "goober who can't type" rather than "superhero debugger". It's bad enough there isn't universal standardization of the all-important backslash key, which 2/3 of the time is a std-sized key below enter and 1/3 of the time a 2x length above it.
  • by Weirdofreak ( 769987 ) <weirdofreak@gmail.com> on Sunday June 06, 2004 @05:43AM (#9349235)
    On my keyboard (UK) it's to the left of Z.

    When I first got Linux up and running, it was using an American layout. To use backslash I had to press hash, and God knows where the hash key was mapped to, because the backslash key didn't do anything. I found myself copy and pasting from the Perl scripts I'd transported over from my parents' Windows box. Thankfully though, I only needed it in said Perl scripts. " was @ and @ was ".

    Now, not only have I figured out how to change the layout, I've also managed to figure out how to stop num lock from being on when I log in. I've got nothing against the key, it's the LED that I hate.
  • by Herschel Cohen ( 568 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @09:43AM (#9349930) Homepage Journal
    Why is this so much easier to read

    select *
    from tblWhatever a
    join tblYaddaYadda b
    on a.ID = b.ID
    where b.foo = 1

    than: SELECT *
    FROM tblWhatever W
    JOIN tblYaddaYadda Y
    ON W.ID = B.ID
    WHERE Y.foo = 1

    There are other potential problems in your SQL that unrelated to whether the reserved words are all caps or not. For instance: SELECT * can get some unexpected results. [First what table are you selecting from - not that important really, since you were just trying to show readibility.] However, even though the table of interest may have an altered structure you might not be seeing columns of interest if the stored procedure that contains this code was not refreshed after the structure change. You are using stored procedures I assume.

    Another simple hint: use aliases that are more easily connected to the table name. Many of us use many more than two tables in our Joins.

    For many reasons stay away from selecting everything, if you have no need for most columns. An easy way to bring your system down or locking others out if used in combination with temporary table on an older version of a backend server.

    Just because you no longer have an interest in using all caps key, does not imply others do not. There are other more important problems.

  • Re:Yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by odie_q ( 130040 ) on Sunday June 06, 2004 @07:59PM (#9353257)
    Ok, that might complicate matters, but there is just no way compressed size can double. Consider the following example (still not completely relevant, I know):
    $ ls -l
    total 3316
    -rw-r--r-- 1 odie users 922449 Jun 6 12:03 ALL_CHAPTERS.TXT
    -rw-r--r-- 1 odie users 177417 Jun 6 12:05 ALL_CHAPTERS.TXT.bz2
    -rw-r--r-- 1 odie users 922449 Jun 7 01:50 aLl_cHApTErs.TXt
    -rw-r--r-- 1 odie users 198291 Jun 7 01:52 aLl_cHApTErs.TXt.bz2
    -rw-r--r-- 1 odie users 922449 Jun 6 12:01 all_chapters.txt
    -rw-r--r-- 1 odie users 182350 Jun 6 12:05 all_chapters.txt.bz2
    -rwxr-xr-x 1 odie users 100 Jun 7 01:50 random_caps.pl
    We're talking 12% here, not 100%.

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